Book Review: Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi

As the alpha dog in the pack, it’s up to Gus to decide when a new dog fits in. Miss Lottie has rescued three dogs after him, and Gus has welcomed each one. They all get along pretty well. But when Decker arrives, he has no intention of getting along or fitting in. Can Gus step up to the plate and be the leader he needs to be?

Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi is a sweet tale of finding your place in life and discovering your strengths along the way. Each dog encountered setbacks and difficulties of some kind before Miss Lottie took them in, and now they are comfortable in their new home. Decker has no intention of being part of the group. He challenges Gus and works to turn the dogs against each other. When the smallest dog leaves in search of his former owner, the others rally to find him before the neighborhood coyote does.

Crimi keeps the story going in ways that keep it from being predictable, letting it unfold gently until it reaches a heartwarming conclusion. I highly recommend Secondhand Dogs for mother-daughter book clubs and all readers aged 8 to 12.

The author provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba

Temple Alley Summer cover image

“I never dreamed my house had a secret unknown to my parents or me—and believe me, when I discovered it, I had no plans to get involved. I am a scaredy-cat.” Thus begins Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba, a supernatural tale of adventure and mystery set in a small town in Japan.

The main character, Kuzu, is looking out his window one night when he sees a strange girl in a white kimono step out of his home. At school the next day, all his friends seem to know this girl, Akari, but Kuzu knows she hasn’t been around before. He wonders if she’s a ghost. When he finds an old map that labels his house as an old temple, he sets out to discover the truth about Akari and the past.

Temple Alley Summer is a thoughtful tale that explores the meaning of family, memories, and pursuing what’s important to you. It’s also a story within a story, as Kuzu and his friends discover and old serialized tale from a long-gone children’s magazine. Both stories unfold gently, leading the reader along through several twists and turns until reaching a satisfying conclusion.

Illustrations are by Miho Satake, and the story is translated from the Japanese by Avery Fischer Udagawa. I recommend it for readers aged 9 to 12.

The author provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Even and Odd by Sarah Beth Durst

Sisters Emma and Olivia are better known by their nicknames, Even and Odd, because their magic works only on alternating days. They live on the border of the normal world, selling items out of their family store to magical creatures who cross the border with the land of Firoth. But when they meet a young unicorn and cross the border themselves to see why magic isn’t working consistently, they get stuck on the other side. The three have to work together to figure out what’s happening and make things right again.

Even and Odd by Sarah Beth Durst is a cute fantasy about sisters who have different points of view on their abilities. Even loves practicing her magic and Odd would rather be normal. But they discover that when they work together, they can better achieve what they each want. They also discover that their perspective, and their ability to listen and observe, hep them figure out what’s happening before anyone else can.

Even and Odd is imaginative and fun, great for kids who love adventure and fantasy. I recommend it for ages 9 to 12.

The author provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Magnificent Books Series

The Magnificent Book of Horses cover image
The Magnificent Book of Horses inside image

Gone are the days when families kept a set of encyclopedias for reference when they wanted to find out facts about something they were interested in. But nonfiction books on a specific topic of interest that have beautiful illustrations, engaging facts and lots of information still have a treasured space on book shelves of young readers.

Two new titles in The Magnificent Book series: The Magnificent Book of Horses and The Magnificent Book of Birds may be especially appealing to young readers drawn to fact-based books. I can easily see kids wanting to take them off the shelves often and flipping through the pages to find out something new or reinforce what they have previously read.

These large-format books allow for two-page spreads to highlight each of the 36 horses or birds featured. The illustrations are colorful, and a set of bullet points give lots of info. A fact file makes it easy to see at a glance the size, color, where each animal lives, and its size relative to humans.

The Magnificent Book of Birds cover image

The drawing of size relativity is a clever way to show, for instance, how much bigger an Andalusian horse from Spain is than a Basuto Pony from Lesotho. Or that an Australian Gouldian finch and a North American Eastern bluebird are both about half the size of a human hand. It’s a memorable way to present what could otherwise be dry information that’s hard to visualize.

The Magnificent Book of Birds inside image

A world map on the last page has small illustrations of each featured animal to show where it lives in the world, which can also help kids learn more about geography. I recommend these titles in The Magnificent Book series for readers ages 8 to 12.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci by Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Many people know that Leonardo da Vinci painted The Last Supper as a mural in Milan. Or they know of his famous portrait, The Mona Lisa. They may even know about some of his ideas to invent machines long before they became reality, like a contraption that would let man fly.

Yet they may not be aware that he developed plans for an armored tank that could be used in battle or invented a musical instrument. Leonardo had a mind that constantly questioned the way things had always been done, and he looked at challenges with a creative mindset. He also studied problems thoroughly before coming up with solutions that used both math and science.

Young readers can learn more about this fascinating man in The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci by Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan. Part of the Build It Yourself series, the book starts with an introduction to the man and the times he lived in before delving into the areas where he excelled: Art, Civil Engineering, Anatomy, Mathematics, Astronomy and Flight. Each section is chock full of facts, words to know, and concepts that da Vinci delved into. Sections conclude with ideas for hands-on experimentation and involvement, with projects that range from simple to complicated, usually with objects easily found around the house.

For instance, to draw a vanishing point all readers need is paper, a pencil and a ruler. To mimic the way a human joint works, supplies include card stock, string, and pasta tubes. There are lots of fun concepts that should appeal to young readers who like to experiment and see how things work. I recommend The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci for readers aged 12 and up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Jungle Animals: A Spotter’s Guide by Jane Wilsher

Did you know that the platypus is one of the few poisonous mammals, able to inject poison through its back claws? Or that piranhas make sounds like short barks? These are just a couple of the interesting and fun facts readers can find in Jungle Animals: A Spotter’s Guide by Jane Wilsher.

This gorgeous book is full of colorful artwork and fascinating information about all kinds of jungle life divided into six categories: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates. Each section begins with a page on how to spot what you’re looking for among foliage and colors that jungle life has adapted to hide in.

Each page is loaded with information that will help readers understand basic facts. This includes a map showing where the animal lives, the type of habitat where it can be found, what it eats, its status on the endangered scale and its size as compared to humans. In addition there’s a summary about the animal, a Spotter Fact, pointers to different parts of its anatomy, and more.

Jungle Animals should provide hours of reading fun, particularly for children who are drawn to nonfiction books. I highly recommend it for ages 6 and up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Taking Up Space by Alyson Gerber

Taking Up Space cover image

Sarah has always felt strong and confident in her body. She loves basketball, is a key player for the team, and has a group of friends who also play. But her parents are both often away from home for work, and sometimes they forget she needs to eat. Plus, the fridge and cupboard barely have any food. When her body starts changing and affecting how she plays basketball, Sarah follows conflicting information in a quest to lose weight, putting her health in jeopardy. Can a Junior Chef cooking tryout and a new friendship with her crush help her adjust her thinking about healthy eating?

Taking Up Space by Alyson Gerber tackles the topic of eating disorders by looking at how the whole family is affected when even one person has a misunderstanding about how to eat healthy. In Sarah’s case, her mom has a troubled relationship with food, which means she doesn’t know how to pass on healthy habits to her daughter. Her dad means well, but he’s not home enough to notice what’s going on.

Sarah doesn’t talk to anyone about what’s going on because she doesn’t want to appear different than she’s always been to her friends. Plus, she thinks she can figure it out on her own. She begins to see things differently when she teams up with Benny and learns to cook for a competition. Ultimately, a group that includes friends, her coach, a school counselor, and her parents work together to make positive change.

Taking Up Space can help anyone struggling with food issues or friends of someone who struggles understand what may be happening and seek help. In an author’s note Alyson Gerber comments about her own issues around food and notes a couple of resources for people who want more information to check out.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Wild Book by Juan Villoro

The Wild Book cover image

When Juan’s parents separate, he is sent to his eccentric uncle’s house for the summer while his mom and dad figure out how to move forward. Uncle Tito lives in a house filled with books and he has unusual ideas about how books behave. For instance, he swears that the books move around as they seek out the perfect reader. They are also arranged throughout different rooms of the house according to strange categories, like “Cheeses That Stink But Taste Delicious,” “The Teeth of Grandmothers,” and “Motors That Make No Noise.” But Juan is most intrigued by what Uncle Tito describes as The Wild Book, a volume that eludes everyone while it waits for its ideal reader.

The Wild Book by Juan Villoro is for those who love to read, appreciate a mystery, and like tales full of fantasy. The idea that books seek out their readers, searching for the right time to presents themselves to the person that needs them, should appeal to avid and reluctant readers alike. Also, while searching for the book that eludes everyone, Juan grapples with important issues in his life: what will life be like for him and his sister if his parents divorce; how can he express the way he feels about Catalina, the girl who works at the pharmacy across the street; can he make room in his heart for an uncle he barely knows and who acts differently from everyone else? It’s a great coming of age tale taking place in a dream-like setting.

I recommend The Wild Book for readers in mother-daughter book clubs and ages 9 to 12.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

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